How fireys are beating the bushfire from hell
IN the midst of a developing nightmare Monday night, a miracle evolved.
How only one home was lost and not a single life as flames crowned 70m in the air above vegetation and 50km/h winds drove fire storms of embers that raced ahead of the main blaze, will be pondered long after this current threat ends.
Huge resources were brought to bear quickly on the rapidly expanding threat with crews deployed into the heart of the fire at the same time a mass evacuation was shifting hundreds out of harm's way.
Courage displayed in a thousand different ways in a thousand different moments was best exemplified by the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service officers wearing breathing gear who entered the one home that was burning down around them, in a desperate search for people thought to be still inside.
Full time officers worked with Rural Fire Brigade volunteers in a co-ordinated defence of homes and businesses supported by the State Emergency Service volunteers, police, paramedics and the Salvos who kept all fed and watered through the long night.
Police evoked powers early to require people to leave their homes and head to evacuation centres at Noosa and Coolum.
As they overcrowded, people out of harms' way started arriving with offers of beds for the night.
Incident controller Commander Bernie Massingham was on the fire ground from about 4.40pm Monday until 10.30am Tuesday.
"It's remarkable," he said. "That we lost only one home among that firestorm, is down to every single individual effort on the night.
"Our tactics were correct but the speed the fire was being forced upon us was overwhelming."
Commander Massingham said there was plenty of advice and experience to draw on at the incident control point.
But it had required the trust of those on the fire front to hold the ground.
He identified one two-hour period from about 7.30pm as chaotic with the force of the wind driving constant ember attacks that left some areas indefensible.
Crews had worked to keep the fire to the west of the David Low Way, but Commander Massingham said "the conditions took it out of our hands".
The blaze burnt along streets of homes in south Peregian igniting vegetation before racing along the foreshore until a number of crews deployed by northern sector controller Rob Frey cut it off near Peregian Beach Surf Life Saving Club.
"If it had got away north there would have been nothing to stop it to Marcus Beach," Commander Massingham said.
"That made a huge difference.
"At that stage the IGA was being showered by ember attacks.
"That we were able to defend the commercial area was not without luck. But you play your hand and take your chances."
By 9pm predictive services modelling was telling the command centre the fire would burn through to Sunrise Beach if it wasn't stopped.
"That would have been catastrophic," Commander Massingham said.
"The success of what's taken place is overwhelming.
"It blows your mind what has occurred.
"It's obviously devastating for one household but overall a raging success."
Teams worked in sectors gradually asserting control to keep the blaze mainly to the west of David Low Way and successfully guiding it around homes, the IGA supermarket and the Peregian Beach Hotel.
Winds that would normally ease into the night were still blowing at 52km/h at 12.30am with the ferocity not easing before 3am.
The key to the success was getting resources ready ahead of the fire in a co-ordinated attack to establish a defendable line from David Low Way, along Woodland Drive and then connecting with Murdering Creek Rd and through to the Sunshine Motorway roundabout.
That line held throughout Tuesday, populated by rural and urban trucks and their crews on hand to quickly stamp down any break outs. The introduction of firebombing helicopters was essential to stamping control over the blaze.
A dozer drew heavy lines of breaks to the western side of the fire ground and established another 45-degree hard line from the northern corner of Peregian Breeze to the point the two roads joined.
The six helicopters dropped their 3000-litre water loads in relay onto the fire front from dawn with thick areas of retardant laid in front of the flames by a 737 firefighting jet from Canberra which made numerous runs.
The fire is not out but being managed within the containment lines.
"We couldn't backburn," Commander Massingham said. "The wind took that tactic away from us. Every fire in southeast Queensland (this season) it hasn't been an option. You can lose control quickly."
In total on Monday night 115 fire appliances and more than 350 firefighters were thrown quickly in to fight a blaze suspected to have been started by a group of teens in bush behind Peregian Springs Coles. The carpark there ended up being used as the forward command centre.
Commander Massingham praised the support of the Salvos and members of the public who had brought sandwiches, fruit and drinks to firefighters before they found a spare bit of ground to lie down and rest between front line stints.
"We live in a very special part of the world," he said. "In adversity we realise our vulnerability and it's human nature to care.
"At the end of this we know everyone has done their best and can rest easy."